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U.S. Statement to the 2017 Preparatory Committee for the 2020 NPT Review Conference
May 2, 2017

Statement by the United States in General Debate
First Session of the Preparatory Committee for the 2020 Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons

As Delivered by Ambassador Robert A. Wood
Permanent Representative of the United States to the Conference on Disarmament

Vienna, May 2, 2017

Mr. Chairman, distinguished delegates,

I am honored to speak on behalf of the United States as we begin preparations for the 10th NPT Review Conference, which will mark the 50th anniversary of the Treaty’s entry into force in 1970.  This is an opportunity to recall the incalculable benefits that derive from the NPT, to celebrate all we have accomplished, and to rededicate ourselves to the tough, practical steps we must take to preserve and expand these benefits for generations to come.  The NPT stands out as a remarkably successful example of states coming together to advance their shared interests.

In 1963, President Kennedy warned of the prospect that, by the end of the 1970s, as many as 25 countries might develop nuclear weapons.  It is hard to imagine that we could have avoided any further use of nuclear weapons if this had come to pass.  Instead, thanks to concerted international nonproliferation efforts, the vast majority of states have forsworn and deeply oppose the spread of nuclear weapons.  This is a remarkable achievement that benefits the security of all states and has helped pave the way for remarkable progress on disarmament and on peaceful uses of nuclear energy.

Mr. Chairman,

The Cold War arms race ended decades ago.  The U.S. nuclear warhead stockpile has fallen more than 85% since the height of the Cold War.  The United States ended production of fissile material for weapons and removed hundreds of tons of fissile material from weapons programs.  I doubt that this would have been possible had proliferation continued unchecked.

Unfortunately, in recent years, security conditions have grown worse, with renewed tensions and growing nuclear stockpiles in some regions.  Non-compliance with nonproliferation and arms reduction agreements have put at risk the progress that has been made and undermined confidence in future progress.  We cannot simply wish these problems away, but we can work to ameliorate or resolve them and lay the groundwork for enduring progress once conditions permit.

The nuclear nonproliferation regime built around the NPT has made possible the nuclear cooperation and commerce that provide clean, reliable energy for hundreds of millions of people.  All NPT Parties benefit from the peaceful uses of nuclear science and technology to meet sustainable development needs in areas as diverse as energy, health, agriculture, industry, and natural resource management.  These gains were possible only because we have put in place international safeguards, export controls, and other measures that provide confidence in the safe, secure and peaceful uses of nuclear energy.

Mr. Chairman,

The International Atomic Energy Agency plays a key part in helping us realize the practical benefits of the NPT, and the United States is the leading supporter of the IAEA’s work across the board, including the Technical Cooperation Program.  We exceeded our initial pledge of $50 million to the Peaceful Uses Initiative by 2015, and are on track to contribute another $50 million by 2020.

I am pleased to announce a U.S. pledge of €1 million to support the IAEA’s project to renovate its Nuclear Applications Laboratories, in addition to the nearly €8.9 million we have provided to date.  This ReNuAL project aims to renew the infrastructure needed to sustain the IAEA’s programs for peaceful uses of nuclear energy.  We also urge other IAEA Member States to join us in meeting this year’s ReNuAL Plus fundraising goals.

Despite these accomplishments, Mr. Chairman, the record on nonproliferation remains incomplete and vulnerable.  We must remain vigilant for any signs of nuclear weapons ambitions.  It is time to recognize the Additional Protocol as the de facto standard for assuring that states are meeting their NPT safeguards obligations, and to reaffirm our shared responsibility to respond to cases of non-compliance that put at risk the benefits we derive from the NPT.

Over the last fifteen years we have redoubled our efforts to prevent terrorists from acquiring the means to launch a nuclear attack, to protect nuclear material from theft and nuclear facilities from sabotage.  It is the responsibility of all states pursuing nuclear energy to adhere to international instruments and standards for nuclear security.  But it is also a collective responsibility to establish high standards and ensure that states are in a position to meet those standards, in part by supporting the IAEA nuclear security program.

As a long-term goal, we must continue to work toward universal adherence to the NPT, even though we have no illusions that this can be achieved quickly.  In several regions, the path to this goal depends on addressing longstanding security challenges.  We remain ready to work with the states of the Middle East to support practical steps toward the goal of a zone free of weapons of mass destruction and delivery systems, but fundamentally this goal depends on the willingness of the regional states to engage one another directly.

Mr. Chairman,

Today, our world faces no greater security challenge than that posed by North Korea.  The DPRK has resumed its reprocessing activities, admitted enriching uranium for nuclear weapons, and carried out five nuclear tests and many ballistic missile launches, in open defiance of multiple UN Security Council resolutions.  Well-intentioned diplomatic efforts over the last 20 years to halt the DPRK’s proscribed programs have failed.  Its stated objective is to be able to attack U.S. and allied cities with nuclear weapons.  The threat of a North Korean nuclear attack on Seoul, or Tokyo is real, and it is only a matter of time before the DPRK develops the capability to strike the U.S. mainland.  As Secretary Tillerson stated at the UN Security Council, “it is time for us to retake control of the situation.”  Our goal is not regime change.  The DPRK, for its own sake, must abandon its nuclear and missile programs if it wants to achieve the security, economic development, and international recognition that it seeks.   The time has come for all of us to put new pressure on North Korea to change course, and we must all do our share.  We must demonstrate our resolve by implementing all UN Security Council obligations and impose increased diplomatic and economic pressures on the North Korean regime.  We are all at risk, and we must all act resolutely to answer this challenge.  If we fail, permitting North Korea’s violations of and announced withdrawal from the NPT and its escalating provocations to plunge the region and perhaps the world into crisis, everything else we do and say here in Vienna will matter little by comparison.  Therefore, determining how to mitigate the nuclear threat from North Korea should be the central issue in our discussions during this PrepCom.

Since the DPRK announced its withdrawal from the NPT, three Review Conferences have been unable to reach consensus on the need to hold a withdrawing state accountable for any violations while it was a Party.  The right to withdraw is woven into the fabric of the NPT, but a withdrawing State remains responsible for any unresolved noncompliance prior to its withdrawal.  Allowing States Parties to violate the Treaty and then withdraw without consequence if caught in a violation ignores this basic principle of international law.  To vigorously enforce this principle is not to curtail the right but rather to vindicate the interests of the remaining NPT Parties and preserve the integrity of the Treaty itself.  We must also ensure that a withdrawing state cannot escape its obligations to other Parties not to misuse the fruits of peaceful nuclear cooperation.

Mr. Chairman,

The NPT has given all of us enormous benefits over nearly five decades.  Despite our differences, we all recognize that the Treaty serves our individual and shared national security and development interests.  Through genuine dialogue, we can build on areas of longstanding consensus, identify new areas where consensus should be possible, and set aside proposals that cannot achieve consensus.  Recalling our common interests is the best way to rebuild the culture of consensus building and consensus-based decision making that served us so well over the decades.  Abandoning consensus might yield an illusion of progress, but not its reality, and even that illusion would quickly dissipate.  Given the benefits the NPT has provided to date, and the important shared interests it protects, we owe the future much better than that.

So, Mr. Chairman, let us work together over the coming days to ensure that the Treaty remains strong and vibrant, that it continues to serve our core interests, and that it helps us fulfill our highest aspirations for a safe, secure and peaceful future together.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.